Undergarment Engineered to Prevent Lower Back Pain

Think only Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne can wear innovative bodysuits? Think again.

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Engineers at Vanderbilt University are changing the game on low back pain prevention with wearable technology.

Did you know that the lower back is the most common site of back pain, most likely because it bears a majority of our body’s weight?

According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), nearly two-thirds of Americans experience low back pain, but 37 percent do not seek professional help for pain relief. Maybe part of that reason is there’s no known cure. All we can do is simply relieve our daily pain with over-the-counter pills, ointments, and heating or cooling packs.

That was until U.S. Engineers recently manufactured an ingenious, mechanized undergarment that may further prevent low back pain by decreasing muscle weakness.

“People are often trying to capitalize on a huge societal problem with devices that are unproven or unviable,” announced co-investigator Aaron Yang from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

“This smart clothing concept is different. I see a lot of healthcare workers or other professionals with jobs that require standing or leaning for long periods. Smart clothing may help offload some of those forces and reduce muscle fatigue.”

At a recent congressional meeting of the International Society of Biomechanics in Brisbane, Australia, the product was unveiled.

The device is made of two material segments, produced from a nylon cover, Lycra, polyester as well as other fabrics for the chest and legs.

The pieces are joined by secure straps that go over the middle back with generic rubber pieces at the lower back and glutes. The apparatus was originally created so that customers could use it only when needed — a single double tap to the shirt employs the straps. And, boom — it’s on.

When the double tap has been initiated, another double tap loosens the straps so the wearer can sit down and move about with ease. The device honestly appears and functions as traditional clothing. Since we live in a smart phone savvy society, it can also be managed by an app the team designed. Users can open the app and the smart clothing will wirelessly engage with the help of Bluetooth technology.

To test this innovative device, clinical trials were conducted where participants wore it while bending forward and raising 24 pound (11 kilogram) and 55 pound (25 kilogram) weights. They were advised to remain in their position at 30, 60 and 90 degrees respectively. Using motion capture, force plates, and electromyography, the team confirmed that the construction decreased pain in the lower back extensor muscles of about 15 to 45 percent for every exercise.

Yang concluded, “The focus of this new technology is not for treating those with existing back pain but focuses on prevention by reducing stress and fatigue on the low back muscles.”

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